LOCAL NEWS

Family of Manuel Ellis to file $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against City of Tacoma

Aug 28, 2020, 5:23 PM
Manuel Ellis family...
The family of Manuel Ellis at a June press conference. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The family of Manuel Ellis announced Friday that it plans to file a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Tacoma.

Tacoma mayor vows answers after police custody death ruled a homicide

Ellis died on March 3, 2020, from a lack of oxygen, after being restrained by Tacoma police. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but found drugs and a heart condition also contributed to Ellis’ death.

On Friday — which would have marked Ellis’s 34th birthday — Ellis’s mother and her attorney, James Bible, announced the coming litigation.

“This is a painful moment for the Manny Ellis family and we’re here to tell you that this is part of a pattern and practice with the City of Tacoma police department,” Bible said.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, who has been outspoken in her support for the Ellis family, issued a statement shortly after the announcement.

“We cannot begin to fathom the deep pain of the Ellis family on the 34th birthday of their son, brother, and father,” Woodards said. “We understand the frustration that the family expressed and share their desire for a thorough independent investigation that is completed as swiftly as possible.”

In early June, Gov. Jay Inslee vowed to look into opening an independent investigation into Ellis’s death. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department had been tasked to investigate the death, despite repeated calls from Ellis’ family for an investigation independent of local law enforcement.

Photos: Vigil in Tacoma for Manuel Ellis

Inslee said in a written statement that the fact the Sheriff’s Department had officers at the scene when Ellis died constituted “an irreconcilable conflict” for the county prosecutor set to review the case, and that an entity “independent of Pierce County law enforcement” should take over instead.

Inslee’s announcement came shortly before Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett revealed that she would no longer be reviewing the Sheriff’s investigation. According to Robnett, she and Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor support a new investigation, and that they “agree that this is the right thing to do.”

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Family of Manuel Ellis to file $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against City of Tacoma